I'm curious about that curious object.

I'm suspicious of that suspicious stranger.

I'm dubious about that dubious plan.

I can't think of any other words that allow this: using the same term to describe the observer and the target. You can't say I'm excited about my excited present, for instance.

The point about these words is that I'm curious about that object means the same thing as That is a curious object. That is not the case for something like furious: one can say I'm furious about that man, and That man is furious, but they certainly don't mean the same.

Here's another way of looking at the oddity. If I say

That stranger is suspicious.

then it's ambiguous as to whether the stranger is suspicious as observer (i.e., the stranger is suspicious of something) or as target (i.e., I am suspicious of the stranger). One can construct similar examples for curious and dubious. This doesn't apply to other words.

  1. Is it just fluke that these all end in -ious? There are plenty of such words for which it doesn't work (like furious).
  2. What's going on here? Are these homonyms, so that curious is a different word when applied to observer and target? Or is it hypallage, transferring the epithet properly applied to the observer onto the target?
  • 2
    I am sad about that sad thing. I am happy about that happy coincidence. I am stinky about that stinky detail. I am mad at that mad plan. I am fucked up by that fucked up mountain. I am giddy because of this giddy height. And I am limited by the limited space here.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 10:50
  • 1
    @RegDwigнt You're stinky? How would this manifest itself?
    – Mynamite
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:09
  • @RegDwigнt I've added something to clarify. It will help with some of your examples, I think. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:50
  • @RegDwigнt I've clarified further. The happy coincidence is interesting, because that is definitely hypallage; this makes me think that's how to characterise the examples I gave. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 18:54
  • That stranger is healthy. Doesn't tell you if he is in good health himself, or good for your health, e.g. if you're a lion talking to another lion.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 13:43

1 Answer 1


The three examples you give are all adjectives - you are curious, and the object is also curious. But when you say I am excited you are not using an adjective, you are using a present participle from the verb to excite, and the adjective from this is exciting.

You could say I am furious about the furious man (though it sounds a bit weird), meaning that you were angry that the man was angry.

I'm trying to think of an adjective that doesn't end in -ious which follows the same pattern. Watch this space!

  • Thanks! I've edited the question to explain in a little more detail, and in particular to say why I don't think furious works as an example. Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 11:50

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